Kateryna Shukh

My name is Kateryna Shukh. I am a psychologist, art therapist, project coordinator. I was born and spent whole my life in my native city Mariupol (Ukraine), but last year I became a refugee.

I have been working with IDPs for over 7 years. When the war broke out in Ukraine in 2014, I was a student and lived in Mariupol. My mother was one of the IDP’s, because that time she lived and built life in Donetsk but lost everything and came back to Mariupol. She immediately took action and became a volunteer, helping women and their families with evacuation and accommodation. A little later, she founded the Mariupol Women’s Association “Bereginya”. I often came to the office and saw families emotionally broken, disoriented. I saw with what involvement my mother helps these people, I could not stay away and got involved in helping them.

Since that time, for 8 years, I have been working with women victims of war and violence, not only in Mariupol, but in around 30 different settlements in Donetsk region which were located in gray zones, near demarcation line that time.

With my team we provided of different specialists as a lawyer, doctor, psychologist and case managers, we provided comprehensive assistance, in places where people lived under shelling, with mined fields, lack of work and many problems.

Over the years, I have led many art therapy groups for women and children, worked with women in their most critical times, supported IDPs and victims of domestic violence.

First of all, my task was to create a safe space and sense of security, to activate in women the desire to continue living and as well as to help them unite and help them with difficult feelings and fears.

On February 24, when a full-scale invasion began in Ukraine, my life changed. My city was destroyed and occupied.
I will never forget how I said goodbye to my mother as if forever, how I took 4 cats with me, how I waited every day for a call and how I hugged my mother and grandmother for the first time after they got out of the occupation. I had to leave my city and flee to Poland. In Warsaw on the third day I got involved in the volunteering process. Now I understand that I just continued my work, continued to do what I know so as not to go crazy with grief and these terrible events. In Poland I met great people, we organized a comprehensive assistance projects for refugees from Ukraine, together with Polish Foundation HumanDoc.

We work every day to ensure that Ukrainian women who suffered from the war and were forced to leave their homes and are now in Poland continue to live.

I believe with all my heart that women’s solidarity and unity is our powerful force.

In Poland, I work a lot in the local municipality near Warsaw, in various refugee centres, in schools. During this time, I met a lot of grief. The women who came to me and come to me, many have lost their homes, their loved ones, husbands, or children, many are completely disoriented and lost and do not understand what to do next. I am here for them. I am there and help them find new strength in themselves to live and move on.

For 16 months I have been working not only as a psychologist, but as a coordinator I have been implementing the fourth project for refugees. For me, this is a very valuable activity, as I understand and feel the needs of women well, as I have my own experience. In 2023, in our projects, we added an emphasis on the financial strengthening and development of Ukrainian refugees. Since financial independence is an essential element to feel freedom.

Now my beneficiaries need help even more than before. Since they are very exhausted of the war, only now many of them have begun to realize that there is nowhere for them to return. But for me it is a great inspiration when I see how the women, I worked with begin to smile, work, communicate with children and friends, live anew.

I believe with all my heart that women’s solidarity and unity is our powerful force.

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